Living with HIV and COVID-19

May 20, 2020 | Life | 0 comments

Iowa Department of Public Health has you covered

Special to Digital GoGuide Magazine by Holly Hanson; MA, CPM | Ryan White Part B Program Manager | Bureau of HIV, STD, and Hepatitis | Division of Behavioral Health| Iowa Department of Public Health

May 2020

We are very proud of the work that we do to help this population get the best support and care to achieve excellent health outcomes as well as to end the HIV epidemic.

Each U.S. state and territory receives funding from the federal government to administer a medication assistance program, usually known as an AIDS Drug Assistance Program, and funding for support services such as case management, transportation assistance, food bank, housing assistance, etc. These two programs are collectively known as the Ryan White Part B Program. I have been managing Iowa’s Part B program since May of 2001.

I grew up in central Iowa in the 70’s and 80’s and went to undergraduate school at the University of Iowa where I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work. I then moved to Denver, CO where I was a travel agent for a short period of time before beginning my Master’s of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology Counselor Education at the University of Colorado at Denver. I was working as a graduate assistant in the Counseling Center on campus in 1999 when on April 20 the Columbine High School shooting occurred.

My supervisor at the time left the Counseling Center to lead the agency created to help the Columbine community heal and recruited me as a staff member. I spent the next two years working at this agency – Columbine
Connections. The staff learned about the effects of childhood trauma on the likelihood of developing post-traumatic stress as a result of the shooting as well as many modalities of healing and building resilience. It was with this lens that I came to work at the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) in 2001 after the grant funding ended for Columbine Connections.

The Ryan White Part B Client Services program contracts with twelve agencies across the state to provide the variety of services mentioned above, and more. Our philosophy is to deliver high quality, client-centered, support services to the greatest number of Iowans living with HIV as possible. We ensure that the level of service is equal to need, but that the system is nimble enough to adjust as needs increase or decrease. When compared nationally, our clients have some of the best health outcomes in the country. Ibelieve this is achieved due to a variety of factors: 1) A strong workforce with longevity, support, and capacity building opportunities; 2) A focus on retention in both medical and supportive care; 3) A strong quality management focus with data driven programming; and 4) Inclusion of all key stakeholders, community members, and Iowans living with HIV in planning of services and other approaches to ending the HIV epidemic.

The Ryan White Part B program increased statewide messaging about five years ago with three main objectives: 1) Reduce HIV related stigma across Iowa 2) Encourage testing to find those living with HIV who don’t know it (about 14% of Iowans living with HIV); and 3) Encourage those living with HIV to stay in consistent medical and supportive care. We’ve done this through print advertising in both newspapers and special publications like yours, digital media, and radio advertising.

When it became clear that COVID-19 was coming to Iowa, the Ryan White Part B team acted swiftly. Both the ADAP and the Client Services programs pivoted to be able to maintain services for Iowans living with HIV without interruption. IDPH staff, as well as most of our contractors across Iowa, began delivering services from their homes. When developing our Continuity of Operations Plan for this specific situation, the Ryan White Part B team anticipated probable needs, including fear of what COVID-19 would mean for a person living with HIV. To address this concern, we worked with our marketing contractor to develop both our April and May messaging for the GoGuide. It is our hope that this message will help assuage fears of Iowans living with HIV as well as provide science based information that pertains to them specifically.

Other things that the Ryan White Part B program is doing to address specific issues for the folks we serve is to provide emergency funding for food, housing needs, and other utilities. We are also working with our Ryan White Part C partners who provide direct medical care to ramp up Telehealth technology, Personal Protective Equipment, and personal health kits to include hand sanitizer, thermometers, and face masks.

The Iowa Ryan White teams are constantly monitoring how Iowans living with HIV, as well as those that serve them directly, are doing. As front-line staff and clients adjust to what may be a “new normal” we are creating new and innovative supports to help us all maintain mental, emotional and physical health. We are in it for the long haul to end this HIV epidemic!

Learn more about about IDPH Bureau of HIV, STD, and Hepatitis

Mission Statement
Protecting and improving the health of Iowans at risk of or living with HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, and/or viral hepatitis.

Vision Statement
Healthy Iowans living in healthy communities.

The Bureau of HIV, STD, and Hepatitis works to reduce the impact of communicable diseases in Iowa and to eliminate the morbidity associated with these diseases.

Prevention and care services target chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis A, B, and C. Programs within the bureau guide community-based prevention planning, monitor current infectious disease trends, prevent transmission of infectious diseases, provide hepatitis A and B immunizations for adults, provide early detection and treatment for infected persons, and ensure access to health care persons in Iowa. Staff from the Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD), HIV/AIDS, and Adult Viral Hepatitis Prevention Programs partner with local public health departments, private health care agencies, disease prevention specialists, and community-based organizations to interrupt the disease transmission process and provide access to testing, treatment, immunizations, and prevention programs.

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